23rd Oct 2016


EU to Poland: artists should be free to 'shock'

  • Behemoth at work: what is art anyway? (Photo: Metal Chris)

The European Commission has said that Poland's prosecution of a rock group for "blasphemy" is against European values.

It said on Wednesday (31 October) in a written statement for EUobserver that "national blasphemy laws are a matter for the domestic legal order of the member states."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But it added that EU countries must respect international pacts.

It cited the European Convention of Human Rights, a Poland-signatory treaty attached to the Strasbourg-based rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, on freedom of expression.

"This right protects not only information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also those that offend, shock or disturb," the commission said.

The statement comes amid a row in Poland over a heavy metal band called Behemoth.

Its lead singer, Adam Darski, while on stage in 2007, ripped up a Bible and called the Roman Catholic church a "murderous cult."

In a case with echoes of Pussy Riot in Russia or Mohammed cartoons in Denmark, the Polish supreme court on Monday said prosecutors can go after Darski on the basis of article 196 of Poland's penal code on "the crime of offending religious sensibilities."

In theory, he faces two years in prison. But nobody expects a jail sentence if he loses.

"[The decision] is negative and restricts the freedom of speech ... We are still arguing that we were dealing with art, which allows more critical and radical statements," Darski's lawyer, Jacek Potulski, told Reuters.

"The supreme court said clearly that there are limits for artists which cannot be crossed," Ryszard Nowak, a former MP for the right-wing Law and Justice opposition party, said on Polish TV.

Women shake Poland's pillars of power

Polish women are marching again this Sunday and Monday. They could succeed where the opposition, the European Commission and other protests failed, and redraw Poland's political map.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity